Sunday, July 17, 2011

Women's World Cup Final - USA v Japan, Running blog commentary

Aw, that was a cute bit on the space station, but maybe that's because I'm a sucker for space travel.
ESPN's Bob Ley calls the USA the favorites, and even a homer like Brandi Chastain has to point out that the USA isn't playing that great. 
Nice background on Pia, because she really is like that, in terms of working song lyrics into actual stuff she says. I like her decision to sit ARod, because Cheney and Rapino have been cool and effective customers. I think Amy sitting back and plotting how to make an impact when she comes on, will be a good idea. 
The highlights of the USA -France semifinal game are well-done, NFL films style - dramatic music and narration. 
US 2 Japan 1
Predictions  coming in via Twitter, and if you're reading now, you can add them in the comments, too.

Um, I'm waiting for a nice video piece on Japan's semifinal win over Sweden, or their epic win over Germany. Still waiting. Be fair in your coverage, ESPN.
Ley is saying "pitch" now, endearing himself to the Eurosnobs, I guess. Foudy makes a good point about how the crowd may give sentimental support to Japan.
Ah, finally, here's Japan's video bit, and I'm teary already. The interviews with Sawa and Miyama, juxtaposed with the terrible tsunami images are touching, and a reminder that reality is so much bigger than sport, but sometimes, sport is a welcome relief from the burden of reality. It's a step back to normal, and joy, for Japan to be able to cheer their players.
The retro 1999 video would be more impactful if they hadn't  trotted out the players or had them on color commentary for the entire tournament. I'm with Hope Solo here, "tired of the comparison".
Ooh, Martin Sheen on the pregame intro commentary. Mr. President, basically, for all the West Wing fans.
Japan are already in their game gear, the USA still have warmup jackets on for the tunnel time before they march out.
Yikes, Ian Darke makes the Japan-Barcelona comparison again. Fine, then, I'm going to compare the USA to Real Madrid, since they're wearing white. It's about as relevant.
One of the little German ballkids looks startled to see the Japan players behind him with heads bowed and eyes closed during their solemn anthem. The USA players sing along to theirs, nicely in tune, for the most part.
Last time I saw Aya Miyama and Christie Rampone on the field together for a championship final, Rampone's team carried the day as Sky Blue defeated the favored LA  Sol, Miyama's team in the first-ever WPS championship.
I worry a bit about Buehler's speed, which isn't great. She risks fouls if she's playing catch-up.
1 - Cheney in the attack, but she doesn't pass to Wambach and her own shot gets blocked. The corner gets cleared by Japan.
2 - Reilly on the attack, but her cross goes awry and out.
4 - Japan has blunted the USA's early attacks and now is doing well at cutting off the USA's sloppy passes.
5- Nerves showing for both teams. Not really a chance since Cheney's.
6 - Wambach with a crappy backpass gives away possession.
7- Krieger, for me, is showing overawe at the moment. Almost all her touches have been poor. She needs to settle down.
9 - Rapino to Cheney - almost - the close redirect misses by less than a foot. Wambach on the next attacks shoots over the bar.
10 - Japan may be zeroing in on the suspect speed of the USA backline. They're playing longball to Ohno.
11- Lloyd with a shot as the ball bounces out, but it's over, though not by much.
12 - Cheney to Rapino - almost again! The close redirect misses. Except for the switch in assister to shooter, it was a similar play.
14- The USA really should have scored on one of their early chances.
16-  Game settling down tactically, but the crowd is restless, wanting to see more chances.
17 - That's interesting. German chancellor Angela Merkel is spending her birthday at the final.
18 - Lloyd may be trying too hard to be the hero. Two shots in a row off-target. Then Rapino has a go from a tough angle. Should have passed to Wambach in the middle.
20 - How does LePelbeit end up shooting? She's never scored for the USA before.
21- Despite the USA's industry and dominance of chances, they have nothing to show for it. Anyone who saw the Japan-Germany game should be worried. 
25 - Another attacking sequence of almost-chances that doesn't come off for the USA.
28 - It's a crafty strategy for the USA to drop back whenever Japan have the ball, forcing the team to look for spaces. Wambach lopes into the counter and strikes the ball well - OFF THE CROSSBAR. shucks.
31- Japan finally unlock the USA backline well, Ando free in the box shoots, but Solo is well-placed for the save.
34- A play like that is all Japan need to hang their hat on for a lead.
35- Cheney header - over the bar. Yikes. Another chance gone.
36- Japan with the ball in the USA end. A set play here for Miyama could be dangerous for the Americans.
38 - Japan have a corner kick - leads to an outside shot over the bar.
39 - Ando in the box again, but Solo picks off her feed.
41 - Japan will be happy to take a draw to the half, while the USA will be frustrated at themselves.
42 - Scrapping in the midfield, Japan have clearly stepped it up a notch before the half. But the USA break open and attack again, but Boxx lets the ball roll just out before hitting her cross.
44- Rampone far into the USA attack, but that doesn't happen, Japan coming the other way gets a cross into Ando, but she can't quite reach it. That was dangerously close for the USA.
45 - Japan on one last attack, with the final shot goes way over.
Now it's halftime and Bob Ley asks if this is the best the USA has played. Well, no. They played better when they scored. 

46- Cheney if off for Morgan, injured ankle. Unfortunate.
49- Morgan hits the post! What a nearly perfect entry that would have been to her joining the fray.
52- Lloyd from a tough angle and Foudy is now taking the USA to task for shot selection and rushing the play in their eagerness for a goal.
53 - Alex Morgan tries to take on three defenders with her limited dribbling skills. It ends predictably.
56 - Japan have a corner, and yet the ball misses everyone in the box and bounces free till the USA clear.
57 - OReilly earns a corner. Japan double-marks Wambach, and clears the service.
60 - Rapino toiling near the corner, but when she loses and then regains the ball, she fires aimlessly from distance for an easy goalkeeper catch.
62 - Sawa with a glorious chip pass to Kinga, but the shot is over the bar.
63 - Japan handled Germany on set pieces, they're doing just fine with Wambach and the USA corner kicks so far.
64 - Ohno is in on goal, called back for offside. Foudy has the guts to call the offside wrong - and it was.  Too bad she couldn't do the same in 2007 for the Greg Ryan call on goalkeeper switching.
65 - The USA with a chance the other way, but Kaihori makes a nice save on Wambach.
66- Nagasato on for Ohno.
67- Now Japan's compact defense is denying USA chances.
68- But the USA's defense is tough, too, holding a line at the box to dispossess the feed into the box.

69 -GOAL!  Rapinoe on the counter feeds Alex Morgan, and with a clear line in front of her, she bears down on goal and fires a low shot into the side netting. 1-0 USA.
71 - Well, Tom Siff did predict Morgan would score the winning goal.
73- Sawa from outside, Solo catches. Japan doesn't want their World Cup dream to die and they're fighting for it.
74 - Set play for the USA, but Kaihori's catch creates a quick Japan counter that Rampone chases down.
76- Japan chasing the equalizer, but also looking a little tired. They may lack the punch to get it.
79 - Miyama tries from distance. Solo collects.
82 - GOAL! Miyama! She got an extra chance when Buehler fell, then tried to clear from the floor, but the ball bounced off Krieger and fell perfectly for Miyama. 1-1
84- Tragic error from Krieger, who should have moved away from the ball as it came towards her, just turned to let it pass and clear, instead of blocking it to the opponent in front of her.
86 - USA with some frenzied play looking for the winner, but the finish is lacking.
87 - Morgan loses the ball in the corner again. She's fast, but she's not that tricky with her feet.
90 - Sakaguchi with a hard low shot, but it's wide.  USA on the counter firing into the box, a chance looks around the corner, but Japan scrape clear.
90+ - OReilly over the bar!
90+- Now Japan with possession, but O'Reilly runs all the way back for a good defensive play.
Extra Time!
I'm with DiCicco that better fitness doesn't mean a win in extra time. For example, the USA in the World Cup versus Ghana in 2010.
92 - USA lively right at the start. Corner kick bounces around, USA collects, feeds Wambach, but not from close and Kaihori collects the header.
93 - Pia, where's Amy Rodriguez?
95- Morgan in the box, keeps the ball, turns, shoots, wide. Good try, though.
97 - Yellow card for Miyama
98- Rodriguez and Cox, warming up for the USA.  Buehler in a footrace makes the play.
100 - OReilly and Wambach nearly combine in the box, but the Japan defense clamps down.
103- GOAL! Morgan shows she can pass, even if she's no dribbling wizard. She nails Abby on the pass, and Wambach doesn't miss from there. 2-1 USA
105 - Siff did predict a 2-1 win.
107 - Japan on the attack, and the USA are sloppy in the box again, but eventually escape.
110- Marayama from distance, but it's wide.
112 -   Bodies down in the box as Solo misses the catch and Lloyd trips with the ball free - and yet the USA somehow escape.
113 - Even unflappably cheerful  Pia looks like her nerves are fried now.
114 - Tobin Heath on for Rapinoe.
115- Heath foolishly dribbles into defenders instead of keeping the ball. Rampone clearance kick after Solo misses the catch when Sawa lofts a ball into the area. Close to disaster again for the USA. Solo is down for a bit.
116 - GOAL! Miyama with a low service, deflects off Wambach, past Solo and it's all even! WOW. 2-2
120- Wambach gets a great ball in the box, but her feet aren't as sure as her head and it's over the bar even though she was in super close.
121 - RED CARD - Iwashuma gets it for a sliding tackle on Alex Morgan just outside the box.
122 - Free kick trick play doesn't come off. Heath tries to follow but her shot is blocked out.
It all comes to this. A still hobbling Hope Solo steps into her net.
Wow, the World Cup melted my computer for a while.
It all went south for the USA in penalty kicks.
Kahori made a great kick save on Boxxy, then Carli Lloyd had a terrible miss high, then Tobin Heath hit a weak low shot that was saved. Solo managed to save one shot and Wambach made her penalty, but when Kamugi stepped up and nailed her shot, it was over.
Japan wins their first Women's World Cup ever. They fought, and fought and never gave up, and in the end, they triumphed. What an excellent tournament. What a crazy game.

Well, well. Yes, the USA should have done better to put chances away, but Japan earned the win by taking the chances they did get. And in fact, the USA got lucky on a few points as well. Anyway, I'm off to see if Brazil chocked on penalties in the Copa America.


Anonymous said...

"Heath tries to follow but her shot is blocked out."

That shot went off the Japanese player for a Corner. But the Ref called goalkick. Announcers didn't make a peep as to it being a bad call. WTF??

Did you miss that? No mention of it when you blogged about the play.

A.C. said...

You're right, it seemed a bad call, but as it happens, I was looking down to blog and missed the replay that might have shown it was definitely a bad call. But who the ball goes off on is often a blown call and doesn't usually affect the overall outcome of a match.

Anonymous said...

It would have led to a corner kick, to a scoring opportunity with only minutes remaining in the match.

Oh well, that's sport. I'm happy for Japan- they really needed this.

I hope you've been watching the Tour de France this year, it's been awesome !

( replays every night on Versus )

SPA2TACU5 said...

I think it was called off side.

Joseph D'Hippolito said...

You know, I think it's time to give Japan credit. The Japanese are technically superior. They play a possession style that the Americans have yet to embrace. They withstood massive pressure in the first 30 minutes and didn't crumble. They were far, far more composed, emotionally. Their goalkeeper had a great game. Their defensive back four was far most composed than their American counterparts.

We can talk about officiating mistakes until Jesus comes. But the fact of the matter is that the better team won. World-class teams don't engage in the type of Mack Sennett play that led to Japan's first goal.

dcboy60 said...

In all of the games I have coached, played in and watched if a team has many early scoring opportunities and doesn't cash in, it always comes back to haunt you. It seems to me there is almost no exception to this element of soccer. I was pleasantly surprised to see the US playing the possession game they had been talking about finally in the Final. It lead to more scoring opportunities and a pretty huge difference in possession, especially in the first half. The failure to finish early in the game really came back to haunt the US because this is a game they could have dominated in the score line. But my hat is off to the Japanese ladies. They deserved the title. There was no shame in the loss by the US. I really enjoyed watching them play during this tournament (even when I was getting frustrated with all of the long ball earlier in the tournament).